If you’re Charlie Crist, this is what a political freefall feels like. One day it is 2008, and you’re a popular governor whose Republican admirers are talking you up for the veep spot on your party’s national ticket. Then, suddenly, you’ve infuriated party conservatives, what you’re being fitted for is a political coffin, and you’re deciding whether to leave the GOP and run as an independent.
According to polls, Crist was once ahead by about 30 points in a primary contest widely viewed as a certain rout, a steppingstone toward a bigger national stage and a White House run. Now, targeted for extinction by “tea party” activists and the right wing of his party, he is behind by more than 20 points to challenger Marco Rubio.
It is yet another reminder of the intraparty dangers awaiting candidates viewed as not conservative enough. From Arizona, where Sen. John McCain faces a tough primary race, to Texas, where Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison failed in her bid to unseat Gov. Rick Perry, Republicans are also facing an anti-establishment fervor that is threatening once-popular political veterans.
“A victim of the times” is how Susan A. MacManus, a political science professor at the University of South Florida, characterizes Crist’s collapse. Continue reading here.